Packrat's paradise: zagray museum preserves brothers' OLD iron collection.
Tractors, all manner of tools and machinery, a machine shop, sawmill and even an 1866 cupola furnace salvaged from a foundry are among the relics amassed by brothers Stanley, Harry and Willie Zagray - all of
who apparently shared a disinclination to part with anything, ever. Now owned in a cooperative joint venture between the QVEA and the Colchester Historical Society, the farm is a living museum showcasing the rise of mechanization in agriculture, construction and industry. "We try to maintain the brothers' interests," says Mark Maikshilo, QVEA past president.
The museum produces three shows a year. Demonstrations showcase an 1800s sawmill, planer and cordwood saw, vintage construction equipment, plowing with oxen or tractors, stationary power and blacksmithing. The Zagray brothers' machine shop gives a remarkable look at machine tools dating to the late 19th century.
The heart of the farmstead
The oldest part of the farm shop building was built before World War II. Stanley Zagray worked as a machinist at Pratt & Whitney through the war years. By about 1950, when he began working from his home shop, the brothers had expanded the shop. "They were very industrious guys," Mark says. "They had a turbine they used to channel their own power for electricity from a brook nearby. It wasn't enough to provide electricity for the whole house but what they got, they got for free."
Wood stoves heated the shop. A lifetime's accumulation of smoke coated the walls with a smudge so thick that the brothers used it as a sort of blackboard. Notations, calculations and words of wisdom they scratched into the smudge remain visible today.
Early on, club members thought the machine shop might offer a resource available to members who could work there to produce their own parts. But practicalities soon proved that impossible. "The electrical system is a disaster," Mark notes. "There are light cords dangling over machines and 3-phase is supplied with extension cords." Safety was a major concern, as were skill levels. Few if any members were truly well-versed in operation of century-old shop equipment.
Eventually the decision was made to operate the machine shop as a museum. Now stocked with a combination of original and donated machines, the shop features four machines (lathe, shaper, planer and milling machine) run off a line shaft.
An adjacent space houses an 1866 cupola furnace the brothers salvaged from a Collinsville, Conn., foundry. "They didn't get the furnace until the late 1960s and I think it took them a couple of years just to set it all up," says club member Dave McClary, Scotland, Conn., who's taken an active interest in the shop, researching its contents and giving tours. "There was a lot to do. They had to hook up a 3-phase engine and build a rig to lift the pig iron. They probably only ran the furnace for five to 10 years."
When giants worked the earth
When George Jarvis, Manchester, Conn., paid $5,000 for a 1953 Northwest Model 80D shovel at a 1978 auction, he knew what he had hold of. "I operated one like it while I worked on construction of the Massachusetts Turnpike years ago," he says.
George restored the rusty relic and then, using two trailers, hauled the Northwest to a job in Hartford. "We started hooking up the cables and there were a bunch of young guys there, giving me a lot of trouble about 'that old piece of junk," he recalls. "I said, 'You just wait 15 minutes; there's going to be a lot of changes around here.' We got the cables hooked up and got hold of the concrete and broke a 3-foot wall right off. That's an 18-ton shovel! Those kids' mouths were hanging open."
The track-mounted cable digger with two-part line is powered by a 6-cylinder Murphy diesel engine. "These are some of the most powerful machines ever built," George says. "You can put a 40- or 50-ton pull on it. It weighs 78 tons. That's a lot of weight: It stands to reason you're going to do something with it." The crane is entirely cable-operated; it has no hydraulics.
The Northwest was parked in South Windsor, Conn., for more than 20 years. When George put it back in service in 2004, he did little more than put in two new batteries. "It turned over six times and took right off," he says. "It's run ever since." The rig is a star attraction at QVEA shows where it is used to strip gravel from a cliff face.
One-of-a-kind Wheel Horse
Jon Cicarelli, Norwich, Conn., showed the 1961 701 Wheel Horse he and his dad restored. The prototype for Wheel Horse's entry into a mid-engine tractor, it is the first Wheel Horse to position the engine on the front side of the frame.
As a prototype, the tractor is not as complete as a production model. "It doesn't have a parking brake and it only has one belt," Jon says. "It has a double pulley; I guess they thought you'd need it because of the bigger engine." The 701 had a 7 hp Kohler; previously, the biggest engine Wheel Horse used was a 5 hp Tecumseh.
When Jon found the 701, it was only recently retired. "The guy I bought it from, his dad had been using it to mow," he says. "They had the deck in the shed." It was rough but complete. "It didn't have a cultivator but it had the plastic dash and backrest." It also had the original tires. "It's tough to find those without dry rot," he notes.
Jon has another 70. It's in good shape and he's decided to keep it original. "The 701 is my favorite model tractor," he says.
Tom Maikshilo's collection is a cut above the rest--a chainsaw cut, that is. Collecting chainsaws since 1996, Tom has gathered up so many that they've taken over his property. "I have a six-bay garage with shelves," he says. "But it's full of saws. All our good stuff--like the camper--sits outside."
His collection of "at least" 500 saws includes varied makes and models, some going as far back as the 1930s. Lancaster chainsaws, made by Lancaster (Pa.) Saws, are among his favorites. "My dad bought a Lancaster saw at a State of Connecticut surplus auction in the 1950s and I inherited it," Torn says. "It vibrated, it's heavy and noisy and it wants to jump out of your hands. I used it for a long time. I had no idea how nice the new saws were."
By then, it was too late. Next thing he knew, Tom had six Lancaster saws, buying some for parts to keep others running. He still likes Lancasters but has branched out. "My main thing is to find something different that no one else has," he says. "That's the hard part. You have to race to the show or somebody else will get the good stuff."
Reflecting the regional importance of cutting wood for timber and heat, the show drew other chainsaw enthusiasts as well. Mike Brigham, Sterling, Conn., showed a pneumatic Wright reciprocating saw that could be used underwater (think pier and dock pilings). The Wright is one of a collection of more than 1,000 chainsaws Mike and his dad, Danny, have built a museum around. "I started with garden tractors when I was 25," Mike says. "Then I got interested in old chainsaws, and they started multiplying like rabbits."
Chainsaws have long been a familiar sight on the New England farmstead, where farmers used them to create an off-season revenue stream. "Farmers would cut pulp wood for the mills," Mike says. "Most of the mills up north didn't own land back then; they'd pay cash for pulp wood."
Bob Hanna, Middle Haddam, Conn., showed a fine trio of Ford tractors, including an 8N with overhead valve 6-cylinder Funk conversion, a 1951 8N with Howard 2-speed rear end and Arps half-track, and another Funk conversion, a flathead V-8. The V-8 conversions are hard to find, so Bob built his own. "It was a fun project," he says, "but it was a project."
Partial to Fords from the 1950-'52 range, Bob has a collection of 20 tractors (15 of which are restored). "The earlier tractors have a front-mount distributor," he says, "and 1 don't like that." Born and raised in a Ford family, he started driving tractors by age 10. "Things were different then," he says. "There were no computers, no TV."
After starting out with Farmall Cubs, Bob made the shift to Ford tractors about 20 years ago. He does all of his own restoration work. "Right now I'm working on a 741," he says. "It's a small row-crop tractor, kind of rare." He's attended the national Ford show and is no stranger to road trips. "The farthest I've gone for a tractor was Fargo, N.D.," he says. "I got a 971 Diesel row-crop. It wasn't a great deal but after pulling a trailer all that way I bought it anyway."
Caption: 1. This cupola furnace was salvaged from a Collinsville, Conn., foundry. The Zagray brothers used it to make castings.
Caption: 2. A Nelson truck loader built by Nelson Iron Works, Clifton, N.J., in the 1930s. Club members said the piece was used to load shoveled snow into trucks, a job hard to imagine during Zagray's 2013 summer show, when sweltering temperatures were the order of the day.
Caption: 3. QVEA volunteer Dave McClary guides youthful visitors through century-old equipment in the Zagray machine shop.
Caption: 4. One of several tractors scattered around Zagray Farm Museum, abandoned so long that a tree has grown through it and lichens have formed on the tires.
Caption: 1. Mike Brigham holding his Wright reciprocating saw with a Mall Model 10 two-man chainsaw at his feet. The Mall dates to about 1949-'51. Although made of die-cast aluminum and magnesium alloys, it weighs nearly 70 pounds. "The bigger two-man bows are unusual," says Mike, who owns the saw with his dad, Danny. "They're very slow but they have a lot of power."
Caption: 2. A fragment of Tom Maikshilo's saw collection on display at Colchester. Tom also collects chainsaw memorabilia: signs, pamphlets, oilcans and manuals.
Caption: 3. Chainsaw collector Tom Maikshilo.
Caption: 4. At the QVEA, the next generation gets a bit of hands-on experience with construction giants of the past. Paired with volunteers, kids take a turn at the levers of this Northwest Model 80D shovel, which always draws a crowd no matter who's operating it.
Caption: 5. George Jarvis, 84, has a lifetime of experience operating massive equipment like the Northwest 80D shovel.
Caption: 6. Bob Hanna's 1951 Ford 8N with a flathead V-8 Funk conversion.
Caption: 7. Jon Cicarelli added a headlight kit and found a cultivator to pair with this Wheel Horse 701 prototype.
For more information:--Quinebaug Valley Engineers Assn., 544 Amston Rd. (Rt. 85), Colchester, CT 06415. 2014 shows: May 3-4, July 19-20 and Oct. 4-5; www.zograyformmuseum.org.
--Mike Brigham, mikessowz@ yahoo.com.
Leslie C. McManus is the editor of Farm Collector.